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Snell to start Opening Day in Atlanta

Snell to start Opening Day for Pirates

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- After Monday's 4-1 win over the Blue Jays, manager John Russell put all the speculation to rest by announcing that Ian Snell will be making the start for the Pirates on Opening Day in Atlanta on March 31.

Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who led the club with 14 wins last season, will start the second game of that three-game set against the Braves. That will put Gorzelanny in line to pitch on April 7, when the Pirates face the Cubs in the season's home opener.

"It works out for both of them," Russell said. "We felt with the rotation, it's the best way to set the five up."

As for the placement of the team's other three starters -- Paul Maholm, Matt Morris and Zach Duke -- Russell would not commit to where each will fall in the rotation, only saying that he has a pretty good idea about how he expects to line them up.

Neither Snell, nor Gorzelanny were available for comment on Monday because both had already left McKechnie Field by the time the postgame announcement was made. However, each had said over the weekend that earning the Opening Day start was inconsequential.

"When they say 'pitch,' I pitch," said Gorzelanny after his start on Sunday. "If I do get [the Opening Day start], that'd be awesome. It'd be great. I'd be totally honored. But I'd be honored to pitch another day."

Snell had even gone so far as to say that his teammate had earned the nod.

"Give it to Gorzelanny," Snell said on Saturday. "He deserves it."

The Opening Day start is a new first for Snell, who pitched the second game of the season in 2007. The nod also comes one day after the right-hander signed a five-year agreement with the club.

While Atlanta manager Bobby Cox hasn't officially made set his rotation, the current throwing schedules for the Braves' pitchers indicate that John Smoltz will likely make the March 31 start, leaving Tom Glavine to take the mound in the second game of the series.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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